5 min read

Six months with iPhone 6, 6 Plus

Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus landed in New Zealand six months ago. At the time I posted my first impressions. Here’s a more reflective review of what the phones are like to use.

Both new iPhones are a success. The Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus dominated worldwide phone sales in late 2014. For the first time Apple sold more phones than Samsung.

Sales are one thing. Profits are another. In the last quarter of 2014, iPhone accounted for 90 per cent of all smartphone profits. Apple made more money in one quarter than any company in history.

Six months on both iPhone 6 models still outsell all rivals.

Samsung homage

Apple’s closest rival, Samsung, paid the iPhone the greatest compliment when it launched the Galaxy S6 last week. It looks like an iPhone 6. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

To get a better feel for the two iPhone 6 models and how they compare, I spent three months with each.

Here’s an updated overview of the two phones. Many comments apply to both the iPhone 6 and the 6 Plus.

At first I thought the Plus might be too large for everyday use:

To me the iPhone 6 Plus feels just a tad too big for everyday comfort even if it is still a beautiful device.

While I’ve seen no sign of the phone bending, it doesn’t fit comfortable in my jeans pocket. That’s doubly so when driving and it’s near impossible to get the phone out in a hurry if someone calls — even if I’ve parked the car.

I need not have worried.

Not only have I adapted to the larger size, I did it without noticing. The iPhone 6 Plus no longer feels uncomfortable in my pocket. I didn’t realise this changed until thinking about the matter to write this post.

In that sense the iPhone 6 Plus now feels like just another iPhone.

It can still be tricky to get the phone out of my pocket in a hurry when sitting in the car, but I’ve learnt to cope. Once again, it’s not something I notice any more.

On the other hand, it’s comfortable in my suit jacket pocket. And the bigger screen is better when I’m driving to an unknown address and need to read a map.

The iPhone 6 Plus is still comfortable in my suit pocket or any jacket. It doesn’t weigh too much nor does it make the jacket hang weirdly.

Reading the map

Map-reading is a practical example of how a bigger iPhone makes a difference in everyday life.

The BlackBerry Classic has merit even with a display half the size of the iPhone 6 Plus screen.

BlackBerry’s keyboard means it does some things well.

When it comes to maps, the smaller display is troublesome. You just don’t get enough pixels to read place names. There’s not enough scope to zoom in and out.

This is less of a problem when on foot, but in a car the larger display on the iPhone 6 Plus makes navigating a breeze.

Writing on iPhone 6, 6 Plus

Mention of the BlackBerry keyboard brings up another point. Some people find BlackBerry’s physical keyboard better than a touch-screen keyboard. When I tested this I didn’t find myself typing faster than on a screen.

In fact, I find I can touch type fast enough on the iPhone 6. The 6 Plus is better again thanks to the larger screen. It is so good that I’m planning to leave the laptop behind next time I travel to an overseas media event and file copy from the phone. I’ll report back on how that works out.

When typing more than a tweet or quick email reply I turn the phone to the landscape position. That way I can get to read an entire line of text on a document.

I’ve used Byword, Apple Pages 5 and Microsoft Word. All seem to do a great job on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Better still is when I use Pages 5 and the Apple Continuity feature which makes moving between an iPad, iPhone and Mac a cinch.

iPhone 6, 6 Plus made for reading

It’s not just the larger screen sizes on the new iPhones, there are more pixels too. This makes it easier to read text.

Poorly designed PDFs are still a pain. If the text is too small and the lines too long you need to scroll left and right even in landscape. Otherwise almost every web page or document is easier to read on the iPhone 6 models than on any other phone.

A lot of reviewers complain about the new iPhones being too large for one-handed use. I don’t have big hands, but I haven’t found this as much of a problem as I feared.

The bad news is the Reachability feature that allows you to pull down the screen to reach the top buttons doesn’t always work. I find a quick reboot fixes this.

One-handed operation is important if you’re sitting on a crowded bus or holding something in your other hand. but there have been few occasions where I’ve not been able to do whatever I set out to do.

Battery life

Bigger screens, more pixels mean more demands on batteries, but the extra size also leaves space for greater power capacity.

This is where the two iPhone models differ the most.

Both models use the new A8 processor chip. It is more powerful than the A7 found in last year’s iPhone 5S, you may or may not notice a difference. I can’t say that I do.

What is noticeable is that the A8 processor does a better job of handling power.

Apple claims the iPhone 6 gives 14 hours of talk time and 10 hours of the internet when on a 3G network. The claim for the iPhone 6 Plus is 24 and 12 hours.

In practice this means I can get a full working day from a full charge on the iPhone 6. A long day extending from breakfast meetings to an early evening function is a stretch, but do-able so long as I don’t push the phone hard.

The iPhone 6 Plus manages a full day and then some. When I’m at home I can get through two or more days without needing a top-up charge. Ironically this means I’m less vigilant about recharging. When I started using the iPhone 6 Plus I would often forget to charge the phone on the second day.

iOS 8, software

Having a bigger screen means the iPhone 6 Plus sometimes looks like an iPad. On the home screen you get icons and a dock across the bottom just like any other iPhone. Turn the phone to landscape mode and the dock stays in place.

Other apps take advantage of the bigger screen when in landscape mode. The Mail app uses a two column layout, so does the calendar.

This adds up to something more tablet-like than phone-like. Some iPhone 6 Plus users have ditched iPads, moving from three devices to two. That doesn’t appeal to me, a ten-inch iPad is still better for reading magazines and PDFs than a tiny screen on a phone.

iPhone 6 hardware

One thing that struck me again and again while using the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is the build quality is excellent. There’s a robustness and an attention to detail that you don’t find on all phones — the only ones as good are Microsoft-Nokia’s high-end phones.

You wouldn’t want to sit too often on an iPhone 6, but it’s strong. I’ve dropped both models a couple of times on hard floors and there is nothing to report.

You’ll get the most productivity and enjoyment out of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus if you use other Apple hardware. Data moves between either phone and my iPad or Mac without a hitch.

It can be strange when everything starts making a noise at the same time to tell me there’s an incoming phone call. Overall the Continuity and Handoff features are a great step forward.

Would I recommend either iPhone 6 model? Yes, they remain the best smartphones on the market today. They’re not cheap, but you get a lot of value for the asking price which starts at NZ$1000. Only a die-hard Android owner would argue that point.